By Will Travers
I read recently that one of my countrymen, a British citizen, was sentenced to five years in prison for smuggling snakes from Kenya. A double tragedy personally as Born Free has such a long and important history of trying to save Kenya's wildlife.
The good news is that instead of receiving a simple fine -- the cost of doing business - and going free, prison was imposed. It's about time judicial systems globally got serious about wildlife crime, including the very dangerous trade in snakes, many of which are poisonous or in other ways deadly.
The issues are profound. A 10-foot long rock python strangled and killed a 60-pound family dog in Miami-Dade County, Florida. This attack comes on the heels of the now-infamous report from a few weeks earlier, when a 15-foot long African rock python escaped its enclosure and suffocated two young Canadian boys in their sleep.
In 2009, a two-year-old girl near Orlando, Florida was strangled to death by her family's 12-foot Burmese python. And, in 2012, a 70-year-old Virginia man was killed by his own pet poisonous snakes.
Sadly, this is just a sampling of tragic incidents involving snake attacks. It should be glaringly obvious by now; snakes can be dangerous, and they make bad pets.
The tragedy involving the Miami-Dade County dog was the 58th snake incident tracked by Born Free USA so far this year. In the time it has taken me to compose my thoughts for this article over the past few weeks, Born Free USA has tracked another dozen snake incidents around the U.S.. We maintain an exotic animal incidents database that has tracked 471 dangerous incidents involving snakes since 1995. In this time, at least 19 humans have died terrible-and preventable-deaths. More....